20-21 January 2014, New York – The UNITAR New York Office held its second training course on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, in collaboration with the Office of the Special Advisor on Prevention of Genocide and Responsibility to Protect. Around 40 participants, mainly delegates from UN Member States along with some representatives from NGOs, engaged in an intense two-day training event. In her welcoming remarks, Yvonne Lodico, Head of Office remarked that the workshop coincided with the birthday commemoration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and sadly marked the twentieth anniversary of the Rwanda Genocide. After 68 years since the holocaust, governments continue to struggle with how to prevent genocide and mass atrocities.
In opening remarks, H.E. Mrs. Jeanie d’Arc Byaje – Deputy Permanent Representative of the Rwandan Mission to the UN –remarked that Workshop fell on the 20 year anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. Although the international community is unable to turn back the clock or undo the atrocities that occurred during this dark time, the community is able to chart a new narrative on atrocity crimes and prevent such unspeakable horrors from ever occurring again. She concluded by saying that workshops like this will help build a foundation for better understanding, cooperation, and accountability in the international community.
Mr. Adama Dieng, UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide stated that these workshops are crucial in combating and preventing genocide and that the international community must continue to apply Responsibility to Protect (R2P) whenever possible for this norm to evolve into a more consistent and concrete tool. The Office on Genocide Prevention strives to stem violence and to prevent situations from becoming human tragedies, such as those in South Sudan and Syria.
Mrs. Claudia Diaz, Office on Genocide Prevention and (R2P), introduced the legal framework of genocide and other atrocity crimes. These crimes – Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, War Crimes, and Crimes of Aggression – were carefully delineated within the framework of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Dr. David J. Simon, a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science atYale University, presented the concept of atrocity crimes within the socio-historical context and gave different reasons as to why such crimes occur. Ms. Gillian Kitley, senior advisor, the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and R2P, spoke on the need to focus on the preventing atrocity crimes as opposed to reacting to them. Prevention strategies would help with issues of stability, sovereignty, and economic power. Mr. Mario Buil-Merce, UN Office on Genocide Prevention, concluded the first day by discussing the emergence and purpose of the emerging norm Responsibility to Protect as well as the specific articles and pillars, including conflict prevention, that outline R2P.
Dr. Adam Lupel, International Peace Institute, and Mr. Jörn Eiermann, Advisor for ICC Affairs at the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein to the UN, discussed prevention of atrocity crimes. Dr. Lupel stressed that R2P was more than just military intervention and involved a series of conflict prevention options that could be used to address the protection of civilians. Mr. Eiermann, stressed the complexities of the veto option in the Security Council and consequences for preventing any action to thwart atrocity crimes. Castro Wesamba, Office on Genocide Prevention, discussed prevention of atrocity crimes in comparison to genocide prevention, through the framework of the UN. Ms. Naomi Kikoler, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Global Centre for R2P and Mr. William Pace, Executive Director of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy and Leader of the International Secretariat of the International Coalition for R2P stressed the role of national, regional, and UN actors in the implementation of R2P and discussed the success of these actors in the prevention of genocide, including in Guinea.
In the end, participants praised the two-day workshop as extremely helpful in addressing the current global challenges facing peace and security, finding that the international community is not only concerned about protecting human life, but seeking to prevent further human tragedies.